In the first chapter of the book, Margo DeMello talks about what human-animal studies entail, the history of human-animal studies, and the location of animals, human-animal studies as a way of viewing the society. The author also examines the meaning of an animal, animals and their uses, the methodological problems, theoretical perspectives, and the real world implications of studying human-animal relations.
The author also takes a look at the social interactions that exist between human beings and animals in the context of the American political, religious, legal, and family systems. His main argument in this chapter is that animals are prevalent and important in the lives of humans today since "not only are we ourselves animals, but our lives, as humans, are intimately connected with the lives of nonhuman animals" (DeMello 4).
In the introduction and the whole of this chapter, DeMello seems to bring out the argument that since animals play an important social role in our lives, there is a need to protect them and treat them with dignity. According to him, the nonhuman and human worlds seem to be inextricably connected because there are constant interactions that occur between other animals and humans (DeMello 5). This argument on the close ties between the human fraternity and the nonhuman world and the need for humans to protect other animals makes sense socially since animals play significant roles in the everyday lives of humans, such as providing companion.
Moreover, DeMellos assertion that humans can best understand their interactions with other animals through the comprehension of their emotional and mental processes makes sense for various reasons. First, the human-animal study in itself largely focuses on understanding the emotions, communication, cognition, animal learning, culture, and behavior of animals. Further, just like humans, other animals have different mental and emotional processes that take place inside them and which influence their interactions with others in their habitats and with humans too (DeMello 10).
Hence, from the perspective of sociological imagination, human-animal studies as a field should not merely be about the study of how humans and other nonhuman animals interact and relate but also about understanding animals in the societal and cultural context. Studying the social construction of animals will enable humans to embark on positive interactions with nonhuman animals in their various habitats.
In summary, therefore, my overall reaction to or evaluation of the introductory part of DeMellos text is that the author has effectively and successfully made a strong case not only for animal rights but also the need to understand animal-human interactions and relationships. The author has made a strong case for the significant roles that animals continue to play in human lives in spite of the introduction of technology, important uses of animals by humans, and the fact that animals affect virtually all aspects of human lives.
DeMello, Margo. Human-Animal Studies. Animals and Society: An Introduction to Human-Animals Studies, by Margo DeMello, Columbia University Press, 2012, pp. 3-29
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